At some point, we've all had our doubts about whether or not we're addicted to social media. Personally, I am pretty sure I lose a few brain cells every time I open the explore section of Instagram. The Social Dilemma, a recent docudrama release on Netflix, more or less, confirms this suspicion. However, that's not really the mind-blowing part of the film.
What left me absolutely stunned was the idea that social media addiction isn't an unintended consequence, rather a well thought-out objective. Turns out, all these years, Big Tech (Facebook, Twitter, Google etc) has been manipulating us and we didn't even realise.
But, it isn't too late to undo that damage, right?
‘The Social Dilemma’ is in no way a tell-all expose of Big Tech’s big bad ways.
At certain points, it lacks historical and social context sometimes but despite the gaps, it provides a good overview of the problem and (brownie points) also leaves you with productive tips at the end!
1. Turn off those notifications
Turning off my social media notifications is literally the first thing I did after watching the docudrama. If this was 2012 and we were using cute blackberry phones, notifications wouldn't be such a bad thing. But in 2020, they're Big Tech's way of keeping us glued to our phones. In The Social Dilemma, they explain how notifications have become a tool to increase activity and keep you unnecessarily engaged.
2. Declutter my social media feeds
The Social Dilemma makes an excellent point about how much excess information is out there. It explains that, while the information available might have increased in the past couple of decades, our brain's capacity to process the same has not. And that just makes so much sense!
Do I need to follow all these influencers and content creators on social media? Do I need to absorb Facebook life updates from people I met once 3 years ago? Not at all. Decluttering is a huge step and I thnk I'm ready to make it happen.
3. Quit! Doomscrolling!
The Social Dilemma explains the downside of infinite scrolling, in that we end up spending hours just scrolling on various social media apps. With thousands of friends on Facebook and content creators on Instagram, there's no natural way for content to get exhausted, right?
Now, considering the times we're living in, it's very easy for this 'scrolling' to turn into 'doomscrolling.' Unpleasant news is all over the place but we just can't stop scrolling. Well, quit that right now.
4. Forget data, I need to start worrying about my attention
“If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product.”The Social Dilemma
Data leak scandals like the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica one have been a part of mainstream discussion, making it easier to assume that Big Tech is all about our personal data and preferences. The Social Dilemma made me realise that that's not it. More than my data, these companies are vying for my attention - which is limited. So that's what I am going to be worrying about from now. At the end of the day, my attention is the product being sold to advertisers. I don't pay for the hours I spend infinite scrolling on Twitter because...someone's paying for me.
(An argument that also applies to TV channels and their advertisers but let's take this one step at a time?)
5. Stop looking at my phone first thing in the morning
I'll be honest, this is something I've been trying to do for years now. I consciously keep trying to avoid social media before bed at night and first thing in the morning but...it's just SO difficult!
Although, I'm now doubly inspired after I heard ex-Big Tech employees in The Social Dilemma talk about how they allow their children limited social media/screen time.
So good luck to me! Again.
6. Start CHOOSING my YouTube videos
The Social Dilemma pretty much spells it out that in order to gain control of the kind of content we are exposed to, we need to *choose* it. The easiest way? Don't click on YouTube's video suggestions.
The terrifying reality of today is that the algorithms that run these social platforms have evolved into a mind of their own and they monitor our activity very closely. So, in order to avoid getting sucked into that echo chamber, we need to start manually searching for what we want, instead of letting the algorithms dictate our opinions and thoughts.
Do you know how easily I get fall down the rabbit hole of animal videos? Ya, this one’s gonna be tough.
7. Try to get a hobby that's not on my phone
This one's difficult as hell. Especially in a world where COVID-19 exists because our phone screen is literally all we have right now. It's currently my work, my social life, and my off time. So yeah, not the easiest thing to do but The Social Dilemma has convinced me to give this another shot and I'm determined. If I'm engaged in an activity that's not on my phone, I can automatically keep distance right?
8. Fact check. I repeat. Fact check.
I was pleasantly surprised when the docudrama addressed how rampant fake news it. We all know it exists but The Social Dilemma scratches the surface of how these algorithms aid the spread of misinformation. The film doesn't deep dive into fake news as a modern-day commodity because it's not about that. The Social Dilemma is simply a reminder (or an eye-opener, depending on how you see it) that it's important to fact check the things we see on the internet. Just because it's on the internet, doesn't mean it's true.
Google might have all the answers, but not necessarily the right answers.
Objective truth gets lost easily in a universe filled with conspiracy theories and entertainment. So let's start by fact-checking things before we hit that like/retweet/share/forward button?
9. Get people around me to watch it
This is super important. As far as I know, we're all prey to social media regardless of age. This includes my parents and I'm hoping to get them to watch this film because...it's important. Even if that means I have to sit with them and re-watch it myself.
10. I don't plan on deleting social media
Not gonna lie, The Social Dilemma can be a terrifying watch if you've never before come across these ideas. Like the interviewees in the film, it's important to remind ourselves that social media isn't all evil. It didn't start out as a weapon of destruction. It's the business models behind Big Tech that make it so damaging.
So clearly, deleting apps is not the solution. Deleting social media isn't necessarily the solution (I know, I've tried). If anything, it creates a vacuum/craving you may not be prepared for.
Better to find a way around it, right?
Guys, we can't change Big Tech overnight. We can only protect ourselves. So start small. Fight ththe social dilemmae battles you need to and carry on.